Social Movements

Article excerpt

Suzanne Staggenborg, Social Movements (Toronto: Oxford University Press Canada, 2008), ix + 173pp. Paper. £25.99. ISBN 978-0-1954-2309-9.

Social protest is a permanent feature of contemporary society, with long-standing and recently formed groups involved in attempts to remedy injustice and to bring about social change through tactics such as lobbying, direct action, and demonstrations. The literature on social movements has grown rapidly and is now rich in theoretical alternatives, conceptual development and case studies. This account of social movements deals with questions about the origins, structures, strategies, effects and decline of social movements. Suzanne Staggenborg summarises theories, analyses major issues, and outlines five contemporary movements. This is designed as an introductory book for students: key concepts are introduced in bold type, each of the main chapters concludes with discussion questions, there are annotated lists of suggested readings and a glossary.

The first chapter begins with brief descriptions of four examples of collective action before introducing the main themes of the book and discussing definitions of social movements. Theoretical approaches are considered in chapter two, in a balanced discussion which includes a historical dimension. Here theories of collective behaviour, resource mobilisation theory, new social movement theory and some recent critical work are introduced and evaluated. Chapter three deals with accounts of how social movements develop, are sustained and may subsequently decline. A discussion of the role of the mass media concludes the chapter. The cyclical nature of protest is examined in chapter five, which focuses on the 1960s, with particular emphasis upon the American civil rights movement, the New Left, and anti-Vietnam War protests. More detailed case studies follow, with chapters on Aboriginal action (particularly in Canada), the women's movement, the gay and lesbian movement, the environmental movement and the global justice movement. …